Universalists, for they do not preach it. That the preaching of eternal torments in hell, is one of the principal causes which produce revivals of religion in the present day, we presume will not be denied. None of the subjects of such revivals would be deemed genuine converts, unless they not only subscribed to this doctrine, but confessed that they had seen themselves doomed to hell by God's word. Yea, some would even demand the confession of them, that they were willing to be damned, in order that they might be saved.

2d, There were no revivals, arising from this cause, produced by the prophets, by Christ, or his apostles; nor could they be produced, for they did not preach the doctrine of hell torments. We think no man will affirm that any revival of religion was produced, or so much as attempted by them, in preaching such a doctrine. They never used it as a means to alarm and frighten people into a profession of religion. They were never found running from house to house, terrifying men, women, and children by the most frightful descriptions of hell torments, until the whole community was in a religious ferment, and a reaction must take place from the mere want of being able to carry the excitement any further. Nor do we find in those days, what is too obvious in these, the different sects all on the alert, and exerting themselves in every possible way to secure the greatest number of converts to join their different churches. A man' must shut his eyes very close who does not see through all this religious manoeuvreing.

3d, Deducting, then, all the religion produced by the preaching of endless misery in hell, which appears in religious excitements, how much would be left with the subjects of it? Such people's minds are lashed with the terrors of hell torments, into religion, or something that passes for it, and the fear of this

punishment in a greater or less degree, operates upon them all the days of their lives. Should we hear of revivals among such persons any more than among Universalists, if this false doctrine, the chief cause of their production, was done away? We question this; for, as far as our observation has extended, the doctrine of hell torments has been a constant theme in public preaching, and in private meetings, to work on the minds of the people. This we believe has been done even with children and others of weak minds, in a way, and to an extent, which men of common sense and prudence ought to avoid. But, let us consider what the Scriptural idea of a revival of religion is, and by what means it is produced. The Scriptural idea of a revival of religion, may be viewed in a twofold light.

1st, When true religion is revived among those who are already professors of it; when they are stirred up to be more obedient to God, and lively in his service; in obeying his commandments, and observing the ordinances which he has appointed in his word. 2d, When persons, formerly irreligious, are convinced of their sins, believe the gospel of Christ, and turn to the Lord. I presume no person, yea, the most zealous contenders for revivals of religion, would object to this statement.

Let us then consider how Scriptural revivals of religion were produced. It will perhaps, be the best way here, to refer to some examples of revivals of religion mentioned in Scripture. The first I refer to is, that which took place in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, which may be seen at large in the two books in Scripture of those names. What then produced this reformation or revival of religion in those days? Was it by means of Ezra, Nehemiah, or any other person preaching the eternity of hell torments? Was it by working on the passions, and alarming the fears of

people, and by every effort which they could make, to overwhelm their understandings with terror? No man dare say this, who has ever read those two books. How then was this revival of religion brought about? It was by reading the Bible, and pointing out to the people, how far they had departed from what God had commanded in his word, and showing them that all their sufferings originated in this departure from God. This statement of the means by which this revival was produced we think no one will dispute. Nor will the man be found, who will venture to assert that preaching hell torments to the wicked had any share in effecting it. We should rejoice to see such a revival of religion among all professors of religion, in the present day, from studying the Scriptures, to see how far they have departed from the law of the Lord. We trust we should not be wanting in giving it all the aid in our power. I pass over attempts made by Jeremiah, and other servants of the Lord, to produce revivals of a similar nature among the Jews, but without success. I only observe in passing, that they used similar means to effect it, as did Ezra and Nehemiah. But when those means failed, they did not betake themselves to the means, so efficacious in our day, to work on the passions of men, by preaching the doctrine of hell torments, to effect their purpose.

A second instance of a revival of religion mentioned in Scripture, is that in the days of John the Baptist. Was it produced by preaching hell torments? John never used the word hell in all his preaching to the people. It was produced by preaching repentance, and pointing them to the Lamb of God, who was to take away the sin of the world. But the most extraordinary revival of religion, is that which took place at the day of Pentecost, and during the ministry of the apostles. Now let all read the Acts of the

apostles, and see if they can find, in a single instance, that any one of the apostles ever said a word about hell, or its eternal torments to produce this revival. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, is as silent on the subject of hell torments, as if no such thing existed in the universe of God. He addressed the very men who had been the betrayers and murderers of the Lord of glory, but does he threaten them with the torments of hell, or even enforce his doctrine by any intimation that they were exposed to such a place of punishment? And is not all the preaching of the apostles uniformly the same in regard to this subject? No working on the passions; no attempt is made by them to terrify people into religion. One might with as much truth affirm, that an eruption of mount Vesuvius produced this revival, as that it was effected by preaching endless misery in hell! Let men only preach as the apostles did, by declaring the glad tidings of forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ, and many things which go by the name of revivals of religion, would be at an end. As the means of revivals in our day are very different from those used by the apostles, so are the revivals produced by such means. The converts made by such means, instead of partaking of the meek, humble, and gentle spirit of Christ, become censorious, bigoted and dogmatical, and with reluctance will they admit that persons, who certainly give as much evidence as themselves of Christianity, can really be Christians. They get attached to their minister, and to their sect, and zeal for these is often mistaken for a zeal for God and his glory. Strong excitement of the animal passions, sometimes even to extravagance, is ascribed to the power of God, at work among the people. As to understanding and believing the gospel, of the grace of God, little is said, and as little perhaps, cared about. We think we may say to such persons, in their own language,

"who ever beard or read of such kind of revivals of religion among the apostles and primitive Christians, or who ever heard of their producing any kind of revival whatever by terrifying people with fearful descriptions of eternal misery?" The course which the apostles pursued was open, manly, and dignified; and the doctrine they preached was glad tidings of great joy to all people. Their object was not to save men from Gehenna or hell, but from ignorance, idolatry, licentiousness, and unbelief, and to instruct them in the knowledge and obedience of the one living and true God. But, the primary object of preaching in the present day, seems to be, to save men from hell; to attach converts to some religious party, and enjoin on them to believe neither more nor less, all the days of their lives than is contained in the creed, which they subscribed to on their admission.

No one will certainly construe what is said in the foregoing remarks, into a disapprobation of revivals generally; but only of such as are produced by terror. We maintain. yea, we advocate true Scriptural revivals of religion. We know of nothing which could afford us more heartfelt joy, than to see all parties in religion, yea, all mankind, attending to the oracles of God, and sincerely searching them to know and obey all that the Lord hath commanded. In our remarks we have considered terror the principal means in producing revivals in the present day; and to such, and such only, the preceding observations are intended to apply. Divest modern orthodoxy of this most powerful mean of producing religious excitements, and henceforth it would probably have as few revivals of religion to boast of, as Universalism itself. We know not, why the truth of God preached by Universalists, should not produce a real Scriptural revival of relig on, equally as when preached by others. Is it the particular medium or manner of communication, that

« VorigeDoorgaan »